Woman Un-Bent


Pentecost 14C

Luke 13:10-17

August 21, 2016


Woman Un-Bent

by Irene Zimmerman


That Sabbath day as always

she went to the synagogue

and to the place assigned her

right behind the grill where,

the elders had concurred,

she would block no one’s view,

she could lean her heavy head,

and (though this was not said)

she’d give a good example to

the ones who stood behind her.


That day, intent as always

on the Word (for eighteen years

she’d listened thus), she heard

Authority when Jesus spoke.


Though long stripped

of forwardness,

she came forward, nonetheless,

when Jesus summoned her.


“Woman, you are free

of your infirmity,” he said.


The leader of the synagogue

worked himself into a sweat

as he tried to bend the Sabbath

and the woman back in place.


But she stood up straight and let

God’s Glory touch her face.




For years I’ve loved this story in the Bible – unique to Luke’s gospel.

And for years I’ve loved this poem written by Irene Zimmerman.


“But she stood up straight and let

God’s Glory touch her face.”


That line brings me close to tears.


I’m not sure why…

I suspect it’s partly because I’ve known so many people

who’ve spent their lives bent over-

looking at the ground.


Sometimes we’re bent over

because we’re afraid.

We’ve been shamed into thinking that for some reason we’re not good enough,

we’re not worthy, not valuable…

and so we don’t dare lift our heads.


Sometimes we’re bent over

because we’re compelled to by someone else.

We’ve been ‘kept in our place’ by those with power or privilege…


Jesus sees a woman bent over for 18 years

in the back of the synagogue

and he calls her forward.


He touches her,

and says, “No more – you are free!”

And she stands up straight.

Continue reading

Dare Greatly


After watching a TED Talk which went viral several years ago, I’ve been following the work of sociologist Brené Brown. In one of Brown’s books, Daring Greatly,  she draws on research and personal experience to point out what one reviewer calls, “the paradox of courage”: we become strong by embracing vulnerability; we dare more greatly when we acknowledge our fear.

Ministry in the twenty-first century requires us to dare greatly!

When I sit at a local coffee shop wearing my collar, working on a sermon or newsletter article, I admit feeling a bit self-conscious at times. (Okay, if truth be told, I feel self-conscious most of the time.) I wonder if I will be accepted or even confronted for my faith. “Dare greatly,” Brown says.

When we as a congregation try new things like walk in the neighborhood with door hangers advertising Vacation Bible School or offer an online Bible study where anyone can join in and comment or have faith conversations at a pub where other people can hear us or pray outdoors on a street in Alexandria, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. “Dare greatly,” Brown says.

We dare more greatly when we acknowledge our fear. Exposing ourselves as Christians in today’s world takes such courage.

It isn’t easy for me either – and I’m a pastor!

Where do I hope you’ll be brave?

  • I hope you’ll bravely join us in September or October on the First Thursday in Del Ray at the Good Shepherd “pay it forward” table.
  • I hope you’ll bravely introduce yourself to someone you don’t know or whose name you can’t remember every week at worship.
  • I hope you’ll bravely share events and activities from Good Shepherd on your Facebook page or through your Twitter account.
  • I hope you’ll bravely sign up for a service project for God’s Work Our Hands Day of Service even if you don’t know exactly what you’ll be doing.
  • I hope you’ll bravely use Facebook Live during worship for a choir anthem or faith story (or even a sermon!) J
  • I hope you’ll bravely serve on a team of Sunday School teachers even if you think you don’t know enough about the Bible.
  • I hope you’ll bravely see a ministry you’re passionate about and help get Good Shepherd involved.
  • I hope you’ll bravely seek help for an addiction or be honest with someone about your parenting struggles or ask a doctor about symptoms of a mental illness.
  • I hope you’ll bravely offer to say a prayer for a colleague who is going through a tough time.

Reaching out, being brave, daring greatly is how we will #feedmoresheep in the 21st century.

Be of good courage!


In Christ,

Pastor Jen

It’s Okay


Pentecost 12C – It’s Okay

Luke 8:40-56

August 14, 2016


David Lose[i] says that today’s gospel reading is perfect

for people who don’t have it all together.

And that of course means all of us,

even if we don’t admit it.


You’ve probably heard the news stories

about the fact that people who spend a lot of time on Facebook

have more symptoms of depression, low-self esteem, and jealousy than others.[ii]


Researchers say that it’s related to social comparison.

Facebook is great for making connections,

but when we compare ourselves and our experiences

to those of our friends,

both men and women, the studies say, tend to think we don’t measure up.


It seems that our friends go to more interesting places,

their family pictures look happier,

they have better things to do on a Friday night.


After we scroll through our friends’ lives,

we look at our own ,

and it seems we just don’t measure up.

We just don’t have it all together like our friends do.

Continue reading

See. Feel. Act.

john philip

Pentecost 11C

August 7, 2016

Luke 7:11-17


And Jesus gave him to his mother.


This is a difficult story to hear and to preach

because most of us have lost loved ones,

and Jesus has not given them back to us

like he gave this mother back her son.


Annaliese was ten years old and she wanted to be a cheerleader.

Not just any cheerleader – she wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

And so when she was dying with AIDS,

the Make a Wish Foundation arranged for some of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to visit her hospital room in Springfield, MA where I was working as a resident.


The visit never happened though.

Annaliese died just a few days before it was scheduled.


Annaliese’s illness and her family’s reaction to it

Was complicated to say the least.


Her mother, didn’t want Annaliese to know her diagnosis.

It was in the mid- 90’s and even the word “AIDS” was filled with shame and fear.


Annaliese’s mother was afraid that if somehow the word got out,

Annaliese would have difficulties at school –

Maybe children wouldn’t want to sit next to her;

Maybe parents wouldn’t want their children to sit next to her.


The thing is, as I sat with her one evening , Annaliese told me that she actually knew she had AIDS.

But sensing how important her mother thought it was that she not know,

Annaliese pretended she didn’t.


Mother and daughter,

Living parallel stories of illness, loss, and grief.

Each holding a deep secret.

Each afraid of what would happen if it – if they – became known to the other –

if they were really seen by each other. Continue reading

Ask, Ask, and Ask Again

no justice

Pentecost 10C: Ask, Ask, and Ask Again

Genesis 18:17-32

Luke 11:1-13

July 24, 2016


Later this morning as she is confirmed,

one of our young people will be asked several questions.

One of them will be:

“Maggie, do you intend …to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”


If all goes as planned,

Maggie will respond, “I do and I ask God to help and guide me.”


I won’t challenge her then,

but I will challenge us all now…

Maggie, really?

Do you really intend to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

Because it’s hard, hard work.


Justice and peace are not the same.

In fact, for justice to come about there is often not peace –

there’s unrest, there’s agitation.

“No justice, no peace!” is the rallying cry of protestors.


In the first reading from Genesis,

it seems that even God wearies from the pursuit of justice. Continue reading

Love the Stranger


Pentecost 9C Love the Stranger

Genesis 18:1-10a

July 17, 2016


There’s a proverb which comes from today’s first reading…

“Do not neglect hospitality,

because through it, some have entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)


During the Great Depression of the 1930’s

my mother tells the story of men

traveling across the country – hobos she called them.

They’d come off the train in Des Moines, IA,

and some of them would make their way to the church parsonage

where my grandmother was always ready with an extra meal.

Do not neglect hospitality,

because through it, some have entertained angels.

Continue reading

See Them

color tv

July 10, 2016

Luke 10: 25-37


It’s hard to know what we don’t see.


I’m showing my age here,

but I grew up in the era of the black and white TV…

and of the rabbit ears on top that you moved around to get a picture…

and of the network signing off at night…

because there was no such thing as 24 hour news…or 24 hour TV.


My grandmother was the first person I knew who had a color TV.

I remember the first time we visited when she had her new TV.

She turned it on (of course there still was no such thing as a remote control,

so she turned the knob on at the set.)


And there it was in living color – Family Feud with Richard Dawson!

It was simply astounding to me.

Orange and blue set

and Richard with a plaid suit and a yellow flower in his lapel!


It was like a whole new world.

Everything seemed different somehow.

I didn’t know what I’d been missing.

(And once I did, I never wanted to go back to plain old black and white TV.)


We waited impatiently for our clunky old set to die

so we could replace it with a color TV with one

which showed the NBC peacock with its feathers in red and orange and yellow and purple and blue and green.


It had never occurred to me that the peacock’s feathers were colorful!

It’s hard for us to know what we don’t see.

                                It’s hard for us to know what we’re missing.


The story of the Good Samaritan…

a lesson we can take from the horrific events of this week…

is that each of us can learn to see better…

we need to see each other better…

…and seeing will move us to action.


The Good Samaritan is one of those parables in the Bible

that many people know even if they have never read  the Bible.


Three people come upon a man beaten and bloodied in a ditch.

Jesus says that all three see the man.

They may not admit it afterwards,  but they see him.


A priest and the Levite see the man,

and they walk away.


And here’s the astonishing part of the parable…

the one who really sees the man…

who sees not just a body in a ditch or somebody else’s problem,

but who sees a man who is hurting,

and who sees him as one of his own… is a Samaritan.


You’ve probably heard the background.

Jews and Samaritans are enemies.

When traveling through Palestine,

Jews would walk completely around the areas where Samaritans lived,

rather than through it.


Their hatred of each other was deep and bitter.

Each accused the other of desecrating their holy places.

The Samaritans had profaned the Jewish temple in Jerusalem by throwing bones into it,

and Jews had done something similar to the Samaritan temple at Mt Gerazim.


In this story, Jesus tells a Jewish lawyer who thinks he’s rather progressive;

who thinks he has it all figured out;

that the only one who sees that a man is hurting

and then is moved to act is a Samaritan.


As our Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said at a prayer service on Friday,

people of color are hurting.

Our brothers and sisters are hurting….


Racism is a continued evil in our world,

and it’s not somebody else’s problem.

It’s our own.

And most of us have walked away from it…

we’ve pretended not to see it.


It’s hard for us to know what we don’t see.

It’s hard for us to realize because none of us has a TV with colorvision yet.

We’re looking at the world with a picture with black and white squiggly lines across the front;

we move the rabbit ears a bit, but it’s still barely in focus,

and yet still we think that’s this is it – this is the best there is.


I declare to all of us today:

a better picture is possible!

There’s such a thing as a color TV!


Martin Luther King talked about the beloved community;

Such a community is not color-blind

but color-seeing, and appreciating, and learning, and loving.

It’s possible.


The story of the Good Samaritan comes in the context

of a question the lawyer asks Jesus.

He asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

It turns out the neighbor is the stranger, the one different from us,

the one who stops and sees and acts.


Probably most of us have experienced at some point in our lives,

the kindness of a stranger.


Recently people on Reddit were asked,

“What’s the nicest thing that a total stranger has done for you?”[i]


When you get discouraged about the capacity of human beings

to care about someone different from them,

read some of these stories.


Someone wrote,

“A guy named Jason sat with me after I got hit by a car. He waited when no one else did, made sure I didn’t die by the side of the road, and got help. I owe that guy my life.”


“I had a leg cast and was trying to get to school on crutches (my usual ride was unavailable). When I was halfway there, a policeman saw me and offered me a ride to school.

The kicker ? I am black and lived in a mostly white city.”


“I had severe anorexia in hs. I used to run every day. Every day I ran the same route. There was an elderly man who always sat on his porch…One day I was running in a down pour …and  (I) started crying. I slowed down to a walk and as I walked past that man’s house, he yelled out to me “It gets better every day”. I went home and admitted myself to the hospital. “


The guy named Jason,

the police officer,

the elderly man on the porch…

they could imagine a different picture – a different world…

and they saw and acted in such a way that could bring that picture into better focus.


Who is tour neighbor?

This week it’s clear…

“A man selling CDs outside a convenience store in Lousiana…


“A man driving in a car with his girlfriend, her daughter, and a broken taillight in Minneapolis…


“A man standing guard at a peaceful protest in Dallas…


These are our neighbors.

See them.


[i] http://www.knowable.com/a/24-people-were-asked-whats-the-nicest-thing-a-total-stranger-has-ever-done-f?utm_content=inf_10_3136_2&tse_id=INF_4c14df60452d11e6b82b0b827aa028d6